Sun To Microsoft: Real Companies Innovate, Not Litigate

from the ouch dept

Jonathan Schwartz has responded to Microsoft's latest FUD threats against open source software. It's obviously a self-serving promotional blog post... but it was an opportunity that Microsoft simply handed to Sun, and it made sense for Schwartz to make his point, which is one that plenty of us have noticed recently: When Microsoft was young, it focused on innovating, but now that it's old, it's focused on litigating. It's certainly a strategy that many companies facing market pressure take, but Schwartz highlights how Sun has tried to resist that same path:
"With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal. We were offered the choice to scuttle Solaris, and resell someone else's operating system. We declined. And we were encouraged to innovate by developers and customers who wanted Sun around, who saw the value we delivered through true systems engineering. So we took that advice.... In essence, we decided to innovate, not litigate."
It certainly doesn't mean that Sun will succeed, but the company should at least be congratulated for resisting the urge to litigate when competition became too tough. This is the same strategy that we've been suggesting for quite some time. Why focus on litigating over things like patents, pissing everyone off, when you can innovate, offer a better product with greater value and make more money from happy customers? The obvious answer is that, in the short term, litigating may look to be easier and more profitable -- but it's a suicidal long term strategy. It slows down innovation, keeps a market smaller than it should be, and simply opens up opportunities for others to serve your customers better.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Innovation would be ideal. But the oldies that don't give a crap about the future (since they won't be living in it) are holding us back.

    Same with oil and gasoline. Find something better for people already, stop dwelling upon technology/resources that should be moved on upon.

     

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  2.  
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    John Z, May 16th, 2007 @ 5:45am

    Sun vs. Microsoft Settlement

    Litigation worked for them. Sun sued Microsoft and settled for 1.6 billion dollars. The timing was good, too. They needed the cash since in fiscal years 2005 and 2006 they lost almost a billion $.

     

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  3.  
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    Grammar Police, May 16th, 2007 @ 6:19am

    You have the right to remain silent

    when competition became to tough

    I think you mean when competition became too tough.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), May 16th, 2007 @ 6:28am

    Re: You have the right to remain silent

    No, he meant to. You're an ass!

     

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  5.  
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    Sanguine Dream, May 16th, 2007 @ 6:31am

    The problem is...


    The obvious answer is that, in the short term, litigating may look to be easier and more profitable -- but it's a suicidal long term strategy


    They think its the best long term strategy as well. If they have their way and litigate all of their competition of business then customers have not choice but to buy their software or stop using pcs altogether.

    Its a simple matter of them thinking that it is better to have all 100 customers of a small market with no competition than to have 1000 customers in a larger market of 10,000 customers with competition. Yes they fail to realize that if would quit whinging about patents and just offer the best products/services they could win all 10,000 customers. As a customer I would be a lot more loyal to MS (or any company in any market) if they won me over with the best product instead of just suing its competitors into oblivion or using other underhanded tactics. Which is why other than the occasional PS2 game I haven't bought any Sony related products in years.

     

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  6.  
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    Jim Durbin, May 16th, 2007 @ 6:47am

    Sun doesn't sue?

    I left my own comment on his post - but with a bold blogpost like his, I guess that Java communities that are working to improve Java development skills don't have to worry about letters from lawyers demanding they stop using the name Java in their websites?

     

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  7.  
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    RevMike, May 16th, 2007 @ 7:34am

    Re: Sun doesn't sue?

    "I guess that Java communities that are working to improve Java development skills don't have to worry about letters from lawyers demanding they stop using the name Java in their websites?"

    The realm of trademark is different than the realm of patent. If Sun doesn't enforce their trademark rights, they can lose them altogether. I haven't followed this issue closely, so I can't comment on Sun's behavior in this respect. Trademark owners need to have lawyers send out letters - there is no way to get around that. It is in general a good idea to look at the tone of those letters to determine the owner's attitude.

     

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  8.  
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    slide23, May 16th, 2007 @ 8:15am

    Real Companies Don't Litigate, Indeed

    As soon as I read the headline, I thought the exact same thing as John Z. Sun did not like what MS was doing with Java (J++) so, of course, Sun had to sue when someone else innovated. Typical pot calling the kettle black crap from all parties involved.

    Techdirt, how did you guys fumble the ball on this one? Or am I missing something?

     

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  9.  
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    James, May 16th, 2007 @ 8:22am

    Seems to me...

    Sun has done its fair share of litigation. Oh gee... what was that crap a few years whining because Microsoft took out their crap vm (virtual machine for non geeks), then whining to have it put back in.. give me a fk'n break they hold no credibility.

    Apparently investors feel the same way their stock has been in the toilet for years.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Grammar Backup, May 16th, 2007 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re: You have the right to remain silent

    I hate it when people turn comment threads into grammar lessons, but the Grammar Police comment is correct. You sir, are the ass here.

     

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  11.  
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    Joe, May 16th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Ummm.... Please find me a case where MS has actually sued anyone for anything technical, patent or otherwise.

    Now stand up if you remember Sun trying to sue MS into the ground when they made a better Java than Sun did.

     

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  12.  
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    chris (profile), May 16th, 2007 @ 10:01am

    Re: The problem is...

    the problem is that tech execs (not just those at MS) keep confusing business with football. you play a football game one quarter at a time because the whole thing only lasts a couple of hours. business isn't football.

    there is no long term in a football game, and aparently there isn't much of one in many businesses.

    oh, and sun has done plenty of litigating in it's day. one of the reasons MS developed .NET was to get around all of the legalities surrounding java.

     

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  13.  
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    PhysicsGuy, May 16th, 2007 @ 10:32am

    Re: Seems to me...

    rofl@"vm (virtual machine for non geeks)"

    yes, because non geeks actually understand virtual machine any better than vm. i do this sort of thing all the time... "yea the cmos battery. oh... complementary metal-oxide semiconductor."

    fyi, it doesn't help non geeks at all. :)

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:29am

    LOL

    What hypocrits.

    Sun Microsystems lost almost all of its innovation and money because they spent too much time focusing on litigation in the 90's.

     

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  15.  
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    angry dude, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:43am

    Re: Real Companies Don't Litigate, Indeed

    "Techdirt, how did you guys fumble the ball on this one? Or am I missing something?"

    Mike doesn't know what J++ is , or rather was...
    Neither he knows anything about C#

    His degree is in Public Relations

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Lars Westergren, May 16th, 2007 @ 11:50am

    Re: Real Companies Don't Litigate, Indeed

    >Sun did not like what MS was doing with Java (J++) so, of course, Sun had to sue when someone else innovated.

    Slide23: Get your facts right please. Sun did not sue Microsoft over J++. They sued Microsoft because Microsoft had entered an agreement with them that said MS could distribute Java and use the brand name IF they agreed to follow the Java standard.

    MS broke this agreement, they deliberately started polluting the core language classes with Windows specific behaviour, a blatant attempt to "embrace and corrupt" (like they do with every standard - HTML, Kerberos, JavaScript, etc etc) at a time when "write once, run anywhere" was one of the main selling points for Java. They could have created their own libs in their own namespace, but they chose to break the agreement. Therefore they were sued, and Sun won. That is when MS decided to create J++ instead.

     

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  17.  
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    Rod Trent, May 16th, 2007 @ 12:56pm

    I'd be interested to know when Sun decides to innovate. Tell Schwartz to set up some kind of email notification system to let us know when it happens, but tell him to make sure the emails don't have embedded JavaScript -- otherwise they won't get through.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Buzz, May 16th, 2007 @ 1:06pm

    Suing once is not a strategy.

    Sun suing Microsoft one time (or even a couple times) does not count as a litigation strategy. Techdirt is pointing out that Sun prefers to look to innovation for profits instead of litigation. Microsoft no longer comes up with good ideas. They use brute force to make money (manual OS upgrades, etc.).

    Did anyone else notice the recent slew of ads of Microsoft attacking Linux? I never thought I'd see them stoop this low. Critics gave Microsoft credit for never attacking Apple despite Apple making blatant "Mac > PC" ads. Now, I see MS trying to convince Linux users that Windows Servers are superior and less expensive. Microsoft's honeymoon is over. I used to like Windows, but I use Linux now. I'm not a blind Linux fanboy. It was Microsoft who pushed me over the edge.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Suing once is not a strategy.

    I'm starting to feel the same way. I want to at at least try linux but I really don't know where to start. All I ever hear are those blind linux fanboys you speak of going on and on about how linux>>>>>MS & Apple.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 3:02pm

    Now hiring - Patent Analyst

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Raymond, May 16th, 2007 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: Suing once is not a strategy.

    Get a livecd and get your feet wet. That is to say a cd that will run linux (not install unless you ask it to) and won't save anything to disk so when you take the cd out and reboot you've not damaged anything. http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu is probably a good place to start.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2007 @ 6:13pm

    So what innovative products has SUN come out with in the last 10 years?

    I know that they bought out a bunch of companies, and ran some into the ground. I can't think of 1 innovative product that they came out with since JAVA.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, May 16th, 2007 @ 7:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Suing once is not a strategy.

    Get a livecd and get your feet wet. That is to say a cd that will run linux (not install unless you ask it to) and won't save anything to disk so when you take the cd out and reboot you've not damaged anything. http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu is probably a good place to start.

    I tried Ubuntu, and found it to be a real pain to use. I've been using SUSE for several months and so far it's been really nice. On the other hand, I don't think that SUSE comes as a live CD (there is apparently a live DVD version). I have Knoppix for my live CD needs and DSL-N on a bootable USB pen drive.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Bob Prosser, May 17th, 2007 @ 5:30am

    Innovate vs. suing?

    Just like Apple, I suppose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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